Three games left in Jordan's career after eliminationPosted: Friday April 11, 2003 11:27 PM
Updated: Saturday April 12, 2003 1:49 AM
MIAMI (AP) -- Michael Jordan's night was filled with mixed emotions.
He had his No. 23 retired before Friday's game at Miami, received a farewell speech from longtime nemesis Pat Riley and watched a highlight video of his career on the big screen.
Then Jordan scored 25 points, tormenting Riley for the final time, and led the Washington Wizards to a 91-87 victory over the Heat. But minutes later, the 40-year-old superstar with six NBA championship rings had his postseason hopes dashed.
He learned that Milwaukee and Orlando also won, eliminating the Wizards from the playoffs with three games to play.
"It's disappointing," Jordan said. "But we're going to be a better team and organization from this happening."
The night wasn't a complete waste for Jordan, who plans to retire at the end of the season.
It started with the highlight video, a five-minute show complete with high-flying, tongue-hanging dunks, ankle-breaking moves, shoulder shrugs, fist pumps and his trademark smile.
Then the Heat retired his jersey, hanging it from the arena's rafters. As the Heat unveiled the half-Chicago Bulls, half-Wizards jersey, Riley said no Heat player will wear the number again.
"In honor of your greatness and for all you've done for the game of basketball -- and not just the NBA, but for all the fans around the world -- we want to honor you tonight and hang your jersey, No. 23, from the rafters," Riley said at midcourt. "No one will ever wear No. 23 for the Miami Heat. You're the best."
Jordan then hugged Riley and waved to the crowd. Jordan averaged 30.2 points on 51.5 percent shooting in 37 regular-season games against the Heat during his career. He was even better in the playoffs, averaging 34.2 points in 11 games.
His jersey was the first the Heat have retired in their 15-year history.
"Having our guys walk onto the court and look up to see how high you have to climb to reach what he has achieved is something that I think is honorable," Riley said. "I just believe he deserves it. The guy has been the greatest player in the history of the game, and I think it wouldn't be a bad idea for every team in this league to hang his number in the rafters as a reminder of what greatness is all about."
Jordan said he was surprised by the gesture.
"It was by far the best gift I ever could have received," Jordan said. "To have your jersey retired in someone else's building, that says a lot. ... It's definitely something very, very special."
Jordan also thought all the pregame hoopla might have been a psychological ploy by Riley. The Heat also introduced the Wizards second, a switch from normal procedures at home.
"I thought Pat was trying to get my mind thinking about all the accolades, and then next thing you know, I forget about the game," Jordan said. "I said 'I ain't going to fall for that.' I got out of the blocks quick and I got into a good rhythm."
Jordan scored seven of the team's first eight points and finished with 15 points in the first quarter on 7-for-12 shooting.
He needed just 17 points to retain the all-time scoring average lead over Wilt Chamberlain. Jordan has averaged 30.2 to Chamberlain's 30.1. He got it with a midrange jumper with about seven minutes to play in the second.
He finished with 23 points in the first half, providing the largest crowd ever in the Heat's arena their own highlight memories. Jordan hit jumper after jumper, shooting over Anthony Carter, posting up Mike James and going around Caron Butler. Outside, inside, turnaround, baseline, pull-up.
With Jordan on, the Wizards hardly missed leading scorer Jerry Stackhouse, who sat out because of tendinitis in his right knee.
"We got him started again," said Butler, who led the Heat with 19 points and eight assists. "He has his little swagger going and he was looking and winking at me."
Jordan went 0-for-8 in the second half, finishing 11-of-26 from the field, but did other things to help the Wizards win. He has four assists, two rebounds and two steals. Larry Hughes and Christian Laettner added 13 points apiece, and Kwame Brown and Tyronn Lue had 12 each.
Even though the Wizards won, there was nothing they could do about their postseason fate. Washington needed to win each of its remaining games and have either the Magic or the Bucks lose all of theirs. The Bucks beat Toronto, and the Magic won at Indiana.
"I think Michael made it exciting," Miami center Brian Grant said. "He was unstoppable in the first half. It seemed like every shot he took went in. Nobody brings a presence like that individual to an arena"
Notes: Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith was courtside for
Jordan's final game in Miami. So were Minnesota Vikings tackle
Bryant McKinnie and several Miami Dolphins players, including Jay
Fiedler, Jason Taylor, Chris Chambers, Randy McMichael, Adewale
Ogunleye and Patrick Surtain. ... Butler received his rookie of the
month award for March at halftime.